A New Year is upon us. The mystery of the future is bewildering, but nothing shall deter my goal of achieving greatness.
December finished with all that is important in my life, friends, family, and flying. After saying my goodbyes, I headed back to Idaho with Ashley in tow. Once back home, we decided the New Year called for a weekend getaway. As Sarah Palin might say, “I can see Canada from my porch!” so, we decided to make the 5 hour drive to Banff for the weekend.
Banff has a lot of history for my family and me. It is where my parents met 30+ years ago. More importantly, it is the place I was first introduced to skiing at the ripe age of two. Little did anyone know, skis would shape a good portion of my life decisions the next 26 years.
Driving from Idaho to Banff is gorgeous. A little over halfway to Banff, the town of Radium Hot Springs comes into view. This town marks the beginning of Kootenay National Park. The remainder of the drive to Banff is all national park land. It is truly breathtaking. Obviously, the photos below do not do the beauty justice.
The first night in town, we hung around downtown Banff, checking out the local scene and testing various Canadian beers at brew pubs. The vibe in Banff is much different from what I’m used to in Telluride. It is quite touristy, and seems less authentic. Overseas foreigners well outnumber the local Canadians and Americans. This seems to drive a lot of the town’s shops and restaurants to cater to these folks instead of staying true to their heritage. It was not all bad; we found a great spot just off the main drag that had excellent beer and great flatbread.
Day 2 Ashley and I woke up early and drove up to Lake Louise. LL is about an hour northwest of Banff proper. The drive is simply stunning. Banff National Park is cerntered around the town of Banff so for hundreds of kilometers in every direction is national park land. It is clear why too. The Canadian rockies are too beautiful to put into words. They are one of those sights that just has to be seen.
Lake Louise, and the entire northern Rockies, have had a bad 2015 snow season. Lake Louises was hurting for snow, but even a bad day at Lake Louise is better than the best day anywhere else. Ash and I shredded the entire morning together. Unfortunately, our trip also coincided with a massive Alberta clipper that froze the western plains. The average temperature this day was -15F. I cannot remember the last time I had been THAT cold skiing. I had five layers on and I was still frozen to the core. I even had to ask Ashley to use her hand warmers, which for me is extremely unusual.
After lunch, I went off and skied the fun stuff while Ash warmed up in the lodge. By the afternoon, the weather had moved in so much that there were only a few feet of visibility. This was unfortunate since the view from the top of Lake Louise is another spectacular one. To cap off the day, I did a few nonstop downhill runs on the FIS downhill course.
That evening, Ashley and I went to the Chateau Lake Louise for Après Ski. We enjoyed warm soup and hot coffee as we sat and enjoyed one another’s company. The Chateau sits right on the actual Lake Louise of Lake Louise. In the winter, they turn a portion of the lake into an ice-skating rink, hockey rink, and ice castle. We quickly ran outside, got a few photos, and then ran back into the warmth. Two minutes with my gloves off for photos actually caused a small portion of frostbite to form on my finger. Yikes!
In order to warm back up, we went on a self-guided tour of the hotel. The Chateau is elegant to a “T.” Every detail as meticulous as the next. I liken it to the Plaza in New York City. It exudes grace.
For dinner that evening, we drove back to Banff and went to the Fairmont Banff Springs hotel. Words cannot do this hotel justice. It looks like it is straight from medieval Transylvania. It is a proper North American castle. The outside is beautiful, but the medieval castle motif really begins after stepping through the doors and seeing the exceedingly classy lobby, and confusing corridors. It is a wonderland. A child’s dream. I could not help but smile like a giddy five year old. The Banff Springs is the type of castle we all imagine during bedtime stories as a kid. And this one is real, it is really real!
After our self-guided tour, we worked up an appetite. From the beginning of our trip, one thing I knew I wanted to do was eat at the Rundle Lounge in the Banff Springs Hotel. The Rundle Lounge is where my parents met 30+ years ago during a ski trip they had taken with their respective friends. I will not go into the poignant details of their first encounter, but it was rather eerie stepping in that place knowing that; had the events not lined up perfectly, my sister nor I would be here today. Amazing how life works sometimes…
We enjoyed a decadent meal and a few drinks as we made friends with our kind Canadian waitress. There is a friendliness that all Canadians have that is almost intangible. It is simply their “Candianish” attitude toward others. It is warm, heart-felt, and genuine.
Late into the evening, we slowly made the journey back through the maze of corridors and sculptures on our way back to the car. Along the way, I stopped to play a few melodies on a piano that was yearning to hear its beautiful tone once more. Melodious chords of winter echoed the halls. I looked up from my perch, ears warm with soft tones, and saw Ashley glowing in a vale of light, standing tall in a castle of yore, and there I knew once more; I am the luckiest man in the world.
Clear skies, dry air, and a sunrise only the Canadian Rockies could offer, greeted us on our final day. I turned to Ashley, looked deep in her eyes, she looked deep in mine, without saying a word, we grinned, turned back towards the sunrise, she leaned on me and I put my arm around her, and we knew, 2015 just welcomed us with open arms.